The portrait of a president
Throughout his 15 years as Denison’s president, Dale Knobel often has spent time in the Presidents’ Room, which is tucked into a quiet corner of the library’s main floor. There on the walls are the painted portraits of the Denison leaders who came before him. Knobel says he has drawn inspiration from these leaders and has thought about the struggles they faced during their own years in the president’s seat.
He might have thought about the financial troubles that plagued Denison’s early presidents — including John Pratt, Jonathan Going, and Jeremiah Hall — in getting the college up and keeping it running. Or he might have thought of Avery Shaw and Kenneth Brown, who led the college through the Great Depression and through World War II. He thought of Samson Talbot struggling, as Knobel puts it, to mesh a traditional curriculum with the Darwinian revolution.
Knobel, an historian who will retire on June 30, knows his predecessors well, but the trustees, faculty, and staff who gathered in the Presidents’ Room last Friday (April 19) for the unveiling of the Knobel portrait were glad to have a little presidential schooling. So Tony Lisska, a philosophy professor with a knack for Denison and Granville history, gave a brief history lesson before President and Mrs. Tina Knobel together pulled back the drape to reveal the newest addition to the room: a depiction of the president in his office, with a painted photograph of the first lady on his desk.
The portrait was painted by Robert Anderson, an artist who was commissioned to paint the portraits of former Denison President Andrew De Rocco; two former Massachusetts governors; former MIT president Paul Gray and his wife, Priscilla; as well as the portrait of George W. Bush that hangs in the Yale Club.
After toasting the Knobels, Tom Hoaglin ’71, chair of the board of trustees, praised Dale for his leadership over the last 15 years. “You will now rightfully take your place in the Presidents’ Room,” he said.
Knobel, the second-longest-serving president in Denison history, told the crowd that the former presidents feel like old friends. “I’m honored to be among them,” he said. “Especially with Tina by my side.”